Archive for April, 2017


The Arts: Bedsider

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Light month this month! This is because of the catch all nature of this site, it’s pretty much one of the only features needed.

Bedsider is a site about safe sex and consent! These are two things that should always be taught, regardless of where you are on the gender spectrum and the romantic spectrum (this includes ace and demi as well (which is where I technically fall under)).

If you live in a nation or community that restricts proper safe sex learning (almost anywhere in the world where there’s a moderate-to-severe limit on women’s rights (nearly everywhere)), then there will be a lot of reduced information about things such as various birth control methods besides condoms, abstinence, the calendar and withdrawal/pulling out (the latter two are not very effective for a slew of reasons). For the safety of everyone involved, it’s important to the entirety of what is available.

For example:

Method Explorer
Method Explorer is great because it is an easy to use, visual guide that even has sensible filters such as “Most Effective”, “Party Ready”, “Hormone Free” and “Easy to Hide”.

This part helps so many people because it helps them decide what is best for themselves and the facts behind whatever they choose. If you click on any chosen method, there are small videos titled “Real Stories” of regular people talking about how the chosen birth control method affects their life.

Beyond those, on each one you pick, you can scroll down further and see all the details!

Here, you can find out how much it cost, how to use it, what is it, the side effects (if there are any) and more! It’s all-around helpful when you want to make the right choice.

Features

The Features section has very good articles that are well written and very informative. Such as “5 myths about the pill, busted” and “What you should know about birth control when you have a disability”. Every article is written by health professionals and advocates. This is great for those who just want to have the facts and without the sex-negativity or slut-shaming.

Questions

The Question section is all-encompassing! Which is fantastic because, wow, there are a lot of questions about sex. There are questions on there I didn’t even know were questions! These questions are written with simplicity and straight-forwardness from clinical professionals. I like how they keep it simple and not try to load up their answer with daunting medical jargon.

Have a question they haven’t answered? It’s probably there. Or living in the Feature section. Such as “5 myths about virginity, busted”. (There’s also an amazing book by Hanne Blank titled Virgin on the history of the concept of virginity.)

These guys do everything…but give you the materials. Information is great, but it only gets you so far. Now, for things like IUDs and NuvaRings, you have to go to a health provider but the basics like condoms and lubes (lube is a need for condom to prevent breakage) are very available. For example Condom Depot sells both items and with plenty of information, complete with buying guides and free delivery for orders over $25 (anything under is just $1.99 shipping). CondomDepot’s page on STDs/STIs and Body Health is extensive and wonderful.

Next week is Ask Black Witch. Good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated. Send ’em in.

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I have gotten into composting! The occurrence came from the fact I now have more space to garden and I had a lot of food waste. Thus composting! I have propagated African violets from space (no, really), succulents, lavender, moonflowers, green onions, viburnum and morning glories. I’m eventually getting black dahlias, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and climbing roses. Given these plants are from different parts of the world (and galaxy), they have different needs. But when propagating them, nutrient rich soils are pretty useful. That and it’s nice to have healthy soil laying about for future use.

My composting system is pretty small because I did not want to deal with a huge compost pile, I don’t have a farm. I wanted to keep everything super simple…because it should be super simple. All compost is, is organic rot. It can be manure, spent food, dirt, whatever. If it’s biodegradable, it can be compost. Couldn’t be more simpler than that. Also, composting should not break the bank. I was not interested in buying a bunch of things for something that happens naturally in nature. All you need is a container that can be opened and closed (and seal scent in because it will smell a little bad). I use a small cat food bag I had recently emptied. I noticed that the bag had a seal to keep the food fresh and scent contained so that was good for me. I also got a kitchen trash bag to line it with so I can put in new refuse and not have to touch the pile. That and it double seals in the bad smell. It concerned me that when summer would come about, the stench would be at the worst because of the heat. The bag is in a shady spot but rot is odoriferous, nonetheless.

Once I got the kitchen bag – which is bigger than the kitty food bag so there’s a long neck outside the bag when in use – inside the cat food bag, I lined the bottom of the bag with planting soil a couple inches. Afterwards, I just cleaned out my fridge of any overdue food waste (soups, sandwich, etc) and dumped them in the bag. And that was it. I closed up the neck of the kitchen bag, squeezed out some of the air, piled it into the cat food bag and closed it up. That was the start of the compost bag.

As time went on, I would add general food waste, like egg shells, tea leaves and green onion waste. I usually would gather everything in a paper towel napkin, gather the napkin corners and put it in the bag like a secondary trashcan. When I would have spare soil from working with my propagated plants, I would throw the dirt into the compost bag. This makes the compost soil really rich. That and it helps make things not smell so bad when you first open the bag. After one particular rainy day, I noticed there were a ton of worms flooded out from the ground onto the concrete. I picked several up and put them in the bag. This is a good idea because worms help break down rot and enrich soil, especially when they have plenty to eat. I don’t plan on turning the compost so I think worms suit for a satisfactory alternative. Plus, they live in soil and in darkness they won’t be harmed being in the bag. Not to mention, if a couple worms are in the bit of compost used for my plants, it’s harmless to the plant. It’s not like having slugs or ants, which can harm the foliage. Like I said, I want to keep things as easy as possible.

It’s important to note that I’m only doing food waste and soil. I’m not putting manure or anything else in the bag because it’s not needed. There are plenty of nutrients in food and soil and I wanted to keep everything as clean and neat as possible. I know that some folks go as far as have compost toilets buuuuut that’s a bit much for me. I just didn’t want to throw away perfectly good soil and chuck out food when I can combine the two and save money on buying more planting soil. So far, I am not throwing away anything with bones in them and definitely nothing plastic or aluminum. Bones take a while to break down and my bag is pretty small so it’s going to be a while before I think about chucking out the leftover turkey carcass after Thanksgiving. Aluminum can break down because it does contain a natural element. However, it isn’t anything that really benefits plants like paper and food does. Think about it like a human: while it is useful to use aluminum, it wouldn’t be very useful or good to eat it. Ditto with plants. Plastic is a no-brainer, remove all plastic from the food item before putting it in the compost bag.

There really isn’t much to composting like this, the bag should stay in a spot it won’t be disturbed for a long period of time because once you’re done putting things in the bag, you just leave it alone. Check on it six months later. If you want to mix it around then, use a shovel to shift things about. If the bag feels like it is procuring heat, then definitely turn the pile. The decomposition is just causing a lot of heat from breaking down so much. To prevent melting the bag, turn the pile to make it cooler.

And that’s the basics of composting for newbs! It’s pretty simple and easy to do. Doesn’t take a lot of space (my bag hardly takes up a corner), nor does it take a lot of effort.

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There’s a lot of concepts and ideas floating about that, frankly, don’t add up. Thanks to the New Age movement, which started in the ’60s of pretty much acts of hyper Orientalism and Whitewashing by White yuppies who confused being active and incessant drug addicts for “transcendentalism” – basically the average concert goer at Coachella or White liberal kid living in gentrified areas now. Frankly, there’s a lot of bunk out there. And it usually floats its way to my shores because, hey, I’m Pagan, people must think that, therefore, I’m pro-bullsh*t.

Not really.

There are so many things out there that are either problematic, dead wrong or just plain Whitewashing and cultural jacking. For example:

Not too long ago, I got a comment on my BW Fan Page on Facebook and it was from someone talking about angels and masters, which confused me. For several reasons: I’m not a Christian Witch (used to buuuuut switched over to Paganism a long time ago) and it sounded a bit “hokey” for my tastes (humans controlling Angels? Especially archangels ones? Doesn’t sound right). It was a collision course of archangels and mermaids, which was interesting but outrageous all the same given these two entities have separate backgrounds and histories. I was then suggested to look up Doreen Virtue, which lead me to a site that just seemed like a Sylvia Browne mimic, but with more dodgy ideas for sale!

Throughout the site, it was absolutely absurd. It pretty much was a general mashup of all sorts of metaphysical concepts washed through the American Christian gaze, very little facts and all tied up neatly with a hefty price tag. For a small sum, you too, dear random person, can learn what angel or mermaid you are.

The problem here is not angelology or treating the existence of metaphysical entities as real. This is a Pagan blog, after all, it’s pretty well within the scope. The problem is not helping people finding balance and purpose in their life, even for a small fee. The issue pops up when someone takes cultural concepts and ideas that have centuries of history behind them, ignore all of it, slap it together and pitch it to susceptible others. This isn’t the only site like this, there are several.

There are so many ways this is dodgy – and a good way to understand when something is a bit off:

Very Westernized, even when East meets West
Skimming through the site, I could not imagine how someone on the other side of the planet could relate to any of this. Everything is very US Midwestern White and heavily Christian leaning. Obviously being Christian leaning and talking about angels is fine and goes hand in hand but mermaids? And White angels from a religion that started in the Middle East? That’s just plain ahistorical. Unicorns? This eventually sounds like Christianity through the lens of Lisa Frank. Everything is very White washed and hyper simplified because the point of the site is not actually helping people learn who helps them out when the going gets tough but to lull susceptible people into doling out tons of money just for some guidance. I would guess that the average person buying the products of this site is White, female, middle class, between the ages of 34-55 and believes all lives matter (except Black ones).

This site co-opts anything not Christian (such as mermaids, unicorns, leprechauns and deities from other religions). This site even brings up the concept of “Ascended Masters” – enlightened people in history. Thing is, this title paints with a brush broader than a paint roller. It is almost like people such as Aristotle and Buddha were of the same train of thought. Which was very much not true. It’s kind of no different when a yuppie would swear up and down they’re worldly and totally open minded …but have a severed Buddha head statue in their bathroom and butchers Dr. King quotes to support their racial micro-aggression to anyone that corrects them.

One site, Light Ascension, has an extensive list called “The Spiritual Hierarchy” that really sounds like it was thrown together to sound otherworldly. Notice that no matter who is mentioned, it all comes back to Christian line of thought, even when entities and people such as Qwan Yin and His Holiness the Dali Lama is mentioned. Honestly, in a way, it kind of affirms the “One True Way” concept that Christians commonly tout. Like the whole universe works toward helping Jesus, even if they’re deities in their own religions, predate Christianity, or doesn’t care about the existence of Christian belief. Which makes no sense.

When the going gets tough, make sh*t up
This is a good saying when folks are trying to sell you the moon and have nothing to offer. This is that moment. The sites are not about learning facts and deep info (even if they pay for it), it mainly plays on the average layperson’s knowledge of angels (hence why no talks about the different choirs of angels, the fact they blindly serve the Abrahamic god* and only that god, never humans, annnnnnnd they’re only depicted as “people with wings”) and pretty much how they, the average layperson, can somehow benefit from this. You could replace the angels on the site with pretty, knitted octopus and it would probably still stick. Just get a concept, make it seem more magical than magical, pitch that you can make that magic happen for others for a price and wait for the money to roll in.

If you think that no one would totally fall for this, I’d agree with you …then look at my email inbox continually filled with random people constantly asking me for spells, even offering money, despite the fact that I say pretty regularly on this site that A) I don’t do paid spellwork for others and B ) I don’t do paid spellwork for others (it’s a pretty important point so I thought it was worth mentioning twice).

Too complex? Just add water
The study of angels in culture and history is really cool and interesting. It also gets pretty scary at some points because angels are a lot more than sweet cherubs out to keep people from bring crappy to each other. However, that doesn’t really help people feel like they’re getting a grip on life. This means everything gets watered down to the point that nothing is really related but everything is centered on somehow improving the reader’s lot. That’s why you can find things about mermaids (which does not show up exclusively in any of the Abrahamic texts (Bible, Torah, Qu’ran)) and random stone associations with Archangels that can some how be roped into being your spiritual bff.

There’s a lot of product but no substance. The archangel profiles have absolutely no mental heavy lifting. No theory, no actual history, nothing. However, the joining thread between all the information is that it’s all here to help you…for a fee, of course.

One prime example of the mish-mash nature of this site and concept is best shown through the post “How a Protective Mother Goddess Helped Me to Overcome Anxiety“. It’s not troublesome to use spirituality to quell anxiety. It’s even healthy, as a matter of fact. Faith can really pull people through hard times. It’s the fact that in the tags on this heavily Christian site is “Xochiquetzal, Sweat Lodge, Native-American Ceremonies, Anxiety, Past-Life Regression”.

Xochiquetzal is, according to Mythology Dictionary, an Aztec fertility goddess that stems from Central America. She resembles childbirth, crafting and flowers. She also has her own origin stories that are no way related to Christian belief. She is an Aztec goddess, thus holds her own. But on Virtue’s site, here she is knocked down to “Goddess Angel”, which is nearly an oxymoron because deity control angels, not are part of the ranks of angels. And as an Aztec goddess, she’s going to be lumped in with the general label of “Native American”, which generally covers Indigenous people who lived in America en masse, folks like Blackfoot, Lumbee, Lakota and Sioux. This does not cover Indigenous folks who lived in other areas such as Central America. Which means Xochiquetzal is getting misappropriated because in the White gaze, all native indians are the same.

This experience that is being recounted is at a sweat lodge, which is explained as a “Native American-based ceremonies held within the confines of a small building or tent”. Talk about hyper generalization. It’s almost like all Indigenous tribes are exactly the same. The group (I’m going to bet this group probably had the diversity of a Klan meeting) started chanting “So-she-ket-zel” as additional water is poured on the rocks, which makes no sense because I doubt Aztecs sat in sweat houses in effort to reach their goddess. There’s just no relation for this particular deity.

The kicker was when Virtue described the Aztec goddess who was the queen of paradise for warriors killed in battle: “She was clearly Native American, with long silky black hair, a youthful 30-something-looking face, and a white animal-skin dress with fringe and red beads. She was beautiful, loving and compassionate….[I]t was her angelic energy that calmed me with its enveloping love.” Eventually, Virtue finds how who it was she “saw” and wrote “‘She is like an angel,’ I said. ‘Who is she?’ I learned that Xochiquetzal is an Aztec and Toltec goddess also known as “flower feather.” She’s an earth- and fire-element fertility goddess who inspires love and passion. She’s also a protective Mother goddess, which she certainly had been for me during the sweat-lodge ceremony.”

The reason this is the kicker for me is because it’s such a blatant disregard for the history of the Aztecs and their beliefs. I did some research and happened upon Mexicolore, an informative site about Central American Indigenous tribes such as Aztecs, Mayans and Tocuaro. Here, Xochiquetzal has her own info page, which described her much better than Virtue did:

Xochiquetzal, the goddess who seduced a priest and then turned him into a scorpion as a mark of her power, was no soft touch She incarnated youth, love and beauty and was amorously pursued by several Aztec gods. Emblemised [characterised] by flowers and colourful feathers, Xochiquetzal was patroness of lovers and prostitutes. Unlike other fertility goddesses, she encouraged love-making as a means of pleasure, not reproduction, yet she had the power to absolve humans of sins that weren’t necessarily of a sexual nature. Wife of the water god, Tlaloc, and consort to the creator deity, Tezcatlipoca, Xochiquetzal lived in the Aztec paradise of Tamoanchan. She was widely worshipped and many great rituals were made in her honour; from incredible acts of sacrifice to sombre confessions.

Hey, waitaminute. Xochiquetzal encouraged sex as a way to have fun? And she was the matron of lovers and sex workers. Ohhhhh, that doesn’t sound very Christian. Christian rhetoric believes that one is only to have sex just to procreate, that sex for fun is disgusting and sin-laden act. And that sex workers are lowly people because, ugh, women capitalizing off of sex, what is the world coming to? They’re untouchables, amirite? And she’s used to be widely worshipped, too. Like a god. Because she is one.

Funny Virtue left alllllllll this out. And got the image of the goddess way off. Such as how the goddess has a noseplug ornament in the shape of a half moon, usually dons many gold ornaments and wears a quechquémitl (a short woven poncho-like garment) and cuéiti of various colors. That she has a headdress that either is a Quetzal bird or a crown of flowers.

All this just sounds so radically different from what what described originally, the white animal-skin dress with fringe and red beads. If anything, it just sounds like what the White gaze would imagine a friendly, non-specific indian. Then again,Virtue thinks Jesus looks like a White guy with gently wavy brunette hair so there’s that. Mexicolore, on the other hand, has this interesting picture describing how Xochiquetzal looks, according to cultural depictions:

It’s also noteworthy that in the story, no one bothered to tell Virtue that the Xochiquetzal is not an angel but a goddess from her own religion. And a widely revered one, at that.

Now, this isn’t the only place on the world wide web that uses the allurement of new age ideas for personal betterment to make money.

In my inbox, I received an email asking about paid advertisement on Black Witch. I tend to keep Black Witch ad-free because I hate ads, especially since most aren’t worth watching or looking at. Plus, with the subject of my website, you’re going to see more “have your fortune told” and “spells to make you powerful” ads everywhere. That’s awful. However, I don’t mind promoting what I think is nifty or something that helps Black Witch (such as Ko-Fi!) Actually, those promotions are done for free, as in, I took it upon myself to post it and make reference to it. No fiscal plying required.

The paid advertisement request I got was for the Transmutation Club, which wanted to pay me to promote their business. Their business was, judging by their site, suckering people out of money in hopes they’ll learn how to use their sexual powers to do better in life and business. The huge red flag of the whole site? This:

Doesn’t it sound incredibly infomerical-y? “We have this great big secret that we’re dying to tell you but we can’t! Not for free, anyways.” And it’s a bit odd that women are reaching out to me but men are writing all the content. Which is concerning, especially since it’s the same exact method that sex traffickers use to get more girls because of the idea that seeing a woman will set off less alarm bells. I’d rather continue promoting Bedsider instead. Way less skeevy, much more informative.

Also, the Transmutation Club site has articles titled “Happiness Hack”…because the human brain is a computer that can be tricked and modified like a rooted android phone. Anything with “hack” in the name and is not talking about computer is automatically iffy at worst, lame at best.

I brought all of this up to the woman writing to me and she responded that one of the faculty members is the founder of WITCH magazine and her readership loves the course. She also tried to sweeten the load by saying that I would get a 30% commissions on any sales made from the their live webinar. Unfortunately, I don’t like commission jobs and I’d rather be an affiliate with those who aren’t shifty in what they’re pitching. If it were a Black-owned metaphysical shop having interesting and sensible workshops that offered me an affiliate commission, I would seriously think of taking that up because it really resonates with what I want to have on Black Witch and to show my readers. The key point is how useful it is for the participant, not how lucrative it is for the business.

As for WITCH magazine, I looked it up. I don’t read any Pagan magazines but I am familiar with a couple. Such as Witches & Pagans and Modern Witch. Truthfully, I think the only magazines I read consistently are Black Belt Magazine and GosuRori because I’m also a martial artist and part of lolita fashion.

WITCH magazine seems to be mainly about hype, not information. I mean, the web address is “badwitch.es”, kinda makes me think the site is loaded with snowblindingly White feminism. And it sort of is: there is some diversity but it appears tokenized, and the same guy who wrote nearly all the posts on Transmutation Club is also writing here. The columns read more like they borrow from Cosmopolitan and Seventeen and less like something with substance. I nearly half expected a column to say, “What wine goes best with moon in Gemini – Getting your groove back for the full moon.”

It’s super American centralist, too. One post about the new moon in Cancer says “The New Moon in Cancer will be born Monday morning on the 4th of July. As an expression of the sign of Cancer, this day will be sensitive, emotional and revelatory. To heighten the sense of significance, take note that this is the day that America’s Independence from Great Britain is celebrated, a moment in history for the whole world to reflect on.”

The whole world. As if America becoming a country was such a cataclysmic event that just took the world by storm. Like we’re the center of the world, center of the Universe, even.

Look, 4th of July is only important to Americans. Literally no one else cares. They have their own national holidays to pay attention to.

Both WITCH and Transmutation Club share a lot of the same trends that I don’t really care for but certainly find pretty problematic, especially if they’re going to ask me to promote their works and products. It’s not very diverse, it’s incredibly cis-het, it does not decentralize gender stereotypes and it glosses over actual information. This, I don’t see being useful for womanists, sex trauma survivors, or trans people trying to be comfortable in their bodies. It doesn’t even have the basics, such as safe sex methods (something Bedsider does). It’s just pretty images and baseless words, with a non-minuscule price tag.

The thing about these sites is that they clog up actual information streams. Y’see, the average person seeing these sites is not going to think “Hey, these sites are probably false and just out to get my money”. They’re going to see the scant, repeated info and think that this is accurate. Especially since these sites play on common held beliefs, insecurities and illusion of access. If you target the emotions, you generally don’t have to provide a bevy of facts, just keep poking at the person’s emotions. That’s where the problems begin, not to mention, reduces the legitimacy of those who actually practice metaphysics and occult and doesn’t shell out cheap gimmicks.

*Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths that basically share the same god.

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